Pizza in the Present Moment

“In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention”-Pico Iyer

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I recently got a healthy dose of mindfulness as Tess and I took a long weekend excursion to the Twin Cities to frolic and eat in a new city.  Our appreciation for all things yummy extends well beyond pizza, we’re not self proclaimed foodies, but we love food and experiencing unique fare in new surroundings.

As we stepped out of the hustle of our daily lives, it became way easier to stop and live in the present moment.  The native Minneapolis folksinger Mason Jennings (one of our favorites) sums it up perfectly:  “Be here now, no other place to be.”

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Meet the Bahn Mizza, our guide to mindfulness in Minneapolis. 

While enjoying the “Bahn Mizza” (a Bahn Mi inspired pizza) at Day Block Brewing in downtown Minneapolis, I took a deep breath and tried to totally experience the pizza and the present moment.  Mindfulness is a practice I’ve been working on for almost half a year and the “Bahn Mizza’s” spicy, sweet and savory asian inspired flavors were fun to sit back and marvel.

The pie had a light base of “gochujang mayo” which was subtle, but provided some background heat and sweetness.  It was complimented nicely by a fresh topping of scallions, a pickled slaw, cilantro and maple-soy glaze. Vietnamese pork sandwiched between the crust and the fresh top layer was the star of the show.  The meat was tender and had a glaze that provided nice texture.

The “Bahn Mizza” provided total proof that sweet and spicy flavors of the east make perfect sense on a charred pizza crust.  Similarly, ancient eastern practices like mindfulness and meditation adapt well to our modern hustle and bustle, as they allow us to take a load off.

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Breathe in pizza, breathe out love. 

Meditation has a variety of positive benefits beyond just taking a breather from the daily grind. Whether it’s a spiritual guru like Deepak Chopra, or an esteemed medical establishment, there seems to be a consensus that meditation can help reduce stress, improve sleep and increase our level of happiness.

According to the Chopra Center website: “A landmark study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital found that as little as eight weeks of meditation not only helped people feel calmer but also produced changes in various areas of the brain, including growth in the areas associated with memory, empathy, sense of self, and stress regulation.”

Mayo Clinic goes one step further and says some research indicates that meditation can even help with illnesses like depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and chronic pain.

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Tess’ Bitmoji practicing present moment pizza awareness.

Finding a piece of mind.

  • Guided meditation:  I’ve used the app Headspace to meditate for 163 days and feel equal parts rejuvenated, relaxed and grounded.  I do 10 minute sessions which are easy to make habitual and you can choose from different “packs”, I like the one on stress.  While it’s not necessary to use tools like Headspace to meditate or practice mindfulness, it can certainly help starting out.
  • Deep breathing:  I’ve found it helpful to inhale for the count of 5 and exhale for the count of 5.  Also, counting alternate breathes to 10 (1 inhale, 2 exhale) can help get you in the zone.
  • Focus on your senses:  One simple trick I use wherever I may be, is to start out by thinking of my feet on the ground.  I think of the sensation of the carpet or my feet against the soles of my shoes.  I’ll wiggle my toes.  I then go up the rest of my body paying attention to how each part of my body feels.
  • Find some silence:  Turn off all distractions. Simply sitting and being still can help you focus on the present. I try to pay close attention to the details of my surroundings.
  • Visualization:  Picture your negative thoughts and emotions as a little cloud passing by.  Andy Puddicombe the co-founder of Headspace who lends his voice to guide you, describes this visualization: “Our mind is a blue sky. Clouds come and go. We tend to get caught up in the clouds and forget about the blue sky”.

What pizza taught me:

Practicing mindfulness meditation is about acknowledging our thoughts and letting them pass. When we step into the present moment we can calm our nerves, reduce stress and find a greater appreciation for the people, places and yummy pizza that surround us.

What I’m eating:  Bahn Mizza at Day Block Brewing; gochujang mayo, Vietnamese pork, scallion, pickled slaw, cilantro & maple-soy glaze.

What I’m reading: The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere -Pico Iyer

What I’m listening to: Mason Jennings “Be here now”

 

 

 

Believe in Pizza

“If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I believe it’s true that there is no such thing as bad pizza. On my never-ending quest for melty cheese, crispy crust and herbaceous sauce I’ve found every pizza is special in its own greasy way. While some pizza may exude more Instagram appeal than others, at the end of the day it’s pizza and therefore awesome.

We are also special in our own right.  When we assert the same unrelenting faith we have for pizza inward towards ourselves, confidence is born.  Can a perfect cheese pizza from Gates and Brovi in Madison WI. help me find more confidence within myself?

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The Sinatra of cheese pizza.

As I gaze upon my Gates and Brovi extra cheese pizza perfectly displayed before me, I can’t help but think this pizza has got it going on.  If this pizza had personality it would be overflowing with confidence.

The exceptionally cheesy pie sits mounted on a chrome pizza stand that invites you to admire its appeal.  It’s poised and nonchalant, not looking for attention, but making it difficult for onlookers not to notice its excellence.

The pizza’s crispy crust is dusted with floor and sturdy enough to support a generous portion of mozzarella. Like my all-time favorite Gus’ pizza in Whitewater WI, the sauce and cheese bake together and meld into one; leaving a perfectly greasy blanket covering the pie.

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How to be smooth as fresh mozzarella. 

Eliud Kipchoge an Olympic gold medalist in marathon running recently was quoted in Wired magazine  “It’s not your legs that run” “It’s your heart and mind”.  He said this in reference to self belief and tackling seemingly unattainable goals (running a sub 2-hour marathon for Nike)

Though I’m not taking on super-human feats, I do have to consciously remind myself to have confidence.  I’ve always wished confidence was something I was naturally graced with, but it’s an ongoing effort. I’ll share several lessons from family, friends, and favorite readings that have helped me out along the way.

  1.  Take baby steps – Do something little everyday to build confidence in yourself.  Reach out to an old friend or family member and feel good about it.
  2.  Develop a mantra – Remind yourself that you’re a pretty awesome dude or dudette.  Simply affirming you believe in yourself goes a long way over time. 
  3.  Watch your posture – Sit up straight, take deep breaths and try not to fidget (very difficult for me).
  4. Make yourself uncomfortable – Spark up a conversation with a stranger when you don’t feel like it.  Ask someone about their favorite pizza (everybody loves pizza).

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What a great cheese pizza taught me:

The first step toward achieving confidence is believing in our abilities. When we have faith in ourselves we can easily snag a slice of life’s abundant opportunities.  Tried-and-true lessons in self belief can help us reach Gates and Brovi cheese pizza magnificence.

What I’m eating: Gates and Brovi extra cheese pizza

What I’m reading: “Snap Selling” Jill Konrath